It was Tuesday when I saw her.
After escaping the cry of telephones and cringe-worthy office politics, I skittered down a few city blocks to the escapist pleasantries of the neighborhood theme-park-urban-ski-lodge-recreational-megastore. Surrounded by mountains of gear, rain rooms, and $40 socks, I browsed the magazines, fondled the water filters, and brushed up against every waterproof fabric I could find. I strolled past the fake mountain wall covered with fake climbers and went outside to listen to the fake waterfall. And there she was.
In the blossom of a parking garage elevator, my anonymous Venus was revealed. Unveiled by hydraulic doors, framed by clouds of visible breath, she was a Madonna in Merrells, an Aphrodite in a North Face anorak. The wind slapped the overly-long grey flannel skirt across her chunky but sensuous shins, and tussled her firmly-buttoned shirt. A lock of hair ran untethered from her sassy, secretaryish sort of hairdo, and she pushed her thick glasses up the slope of her nose with an undeniably beautiful, if only slightly hairy, index finger. Her dull eyes looked far past me, undoubtedly perusing distant volcanoes for adventure, the passion of knighted climbers, and the intrigue of the rain-drenched North Cascades.
Truth be told, I saw the same woman 30 minutes earlier. She budged me out of the way in the latté line: just another casualty of her afternoon hazelnut fix. No big deal. Frumpy but pleasant in an ice-queen, repressed-accountant sort of way. But now I saw her in full splendor — adorned with a pair of telemark skis she didn’t have before. She carried them in one hand, like she knew how to use them.
She might have been just another pale and pimply Seattle face before, but now she was the bearer of 186 centimeters of telemark passion. With skis in hand, she looked like the kind of woman that could make you believe that Voile was a topless beach in France, that Karhu was a Swedish film star of the indoor variety, and that Kazama was Japanese for “climax.” She had become a Black Widow tattooed, do-Tua-me-whatever-you-want, Riva-me till I’m blue in the face, Terminator of love. She ate Pit Bulls for breakfast, and spit out Black Diamonds for lunch. By carting those free-heel boards around she was transformed from mere city slag to a goddess of the mountains, a shining alpine succubus, nymph of the glades come to whisk mere mortals away to a whitened fantasy land during their lunch break.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a married man. I love my wife and nobody rocks my world the way she does. But this is the kind of thing that gets my waxing iron smoking for a couple weeks, if you know what I mean. It’s just that being around skiers for so long, immersed in cooler-than-thou skiness, and tunnel-vision ski-mindedness, I’d forgotten that the damn things were supposed to be sexy at all. And here I was, with the proof standing less than 20 feet away from me with a look on her face that probably wondered why I was salivating in public.
Thing is, it wasn’t my fault. Let’s face it. Telemark skis are about sex appeal. There’s no denying it. Sure some Norwegians and magazine models can flap around like it’s a normal thing to be disconnected behind the ball of the foot, but what about the legions of tele-flailers that are adorning the passes and emergency rooms of North America? Why else would thousands of erstwhile free-heelers be abusing themselves on breakable crust and death cookies? If they just wanted to get down the hill, they’d lock their damn heel down and be done with it. Telemark skiing is about something bigger than mere on-snow travel. It’s about flaunting with disaster on the thin line between pleasure and pain. It’s about looking bad and feeling good. It’s about something that you really can’t explain.
Yes, it’s about sex.
I thought about it some more, sipping down the last chunks of my herbal ecstasy latté, and realized that if skis made you sexier, maybe being a better skier would make you a better lover. Having spent a decade on the damn torture boards, it was a comforting thought that I might be enhancing my in-house performance every time I took to the hills. I’m definitely willing to pick up a few more turns on the old powder run, and I’m sure my wife wouldn’t mind either. And then of course, came the clincher. It hit me like a ton of free gear. Better sex can make you a better skier.
Dryland training is going to have a whole new meaning after this gets out.
- Telemarkers love to repeat — And you thought yo-yos were just about powder? Do it again? Why not.
- Telemarking is not snowboarding — If you still think that faster, faster, faster, harder, harder, harder, is the way to nirvana aprés-ski, you probably should rent a few instructional videos… Taking the long way down does have its advantages.
- Telemarkers have their own props — Probe poles, skins, battery-operated devices….what else you got in that pack?
- Telemarkers understand proper hydration — I can’t speak for anybody else, but I keep my Camelbak in the bedroom, just in case.
- Telemarkers have their own knee pads — hey, it’s just a thought.
- Telemarkers get low and stay low — Trust me boys, being able to get low and stay low without losing control is the most direct path to a woman’s heart. Ditch the pickup lines. Prove yourself on the slope and you’ll never ski alone again.
Reprinted with permission from Couloir Magazine Vol. X-3, Dec. 1997